It was a Friday morning in early April, near the height of the COVID-19 pandemic when fear among patients and the general public was intense.
The UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center’s Adult Infusion Center was as full that morning as social distancing allowed. Ingrid Stromberg could feel the anxiety of her fellow patients and their caregivers. She works on the Davis campus and is familiar with the center because she comes monthly for infusions of Entyvio for Crohn’s disease. She understands how patients can be uneasy even in normal times.
“The patients and caregivers were really edgy that morning. They were much more stressed than usual,” Stromberg said. “But the staff was so patient and kind. They made everyone there feel so much better and cared for.”
She said all the Infusion Center staff walked a comforting line between acknowledging it was a scary time and making patients feel safe.
“Everything outside was new and different,” Stromberg said. “The staff managed to recognize that and at the same time, treat everything as normal, and somehow with extra kindness.”
Her nurse, Michael Stevens, took extra time to see how she was doing and carefully get her ready for her infusion.
“He paid close attention when I thought I might be having a reaction, and gently helped me through all the feelings associated with it,” Stromberg said. “I could tell he was doing the same with his other patients as well.”
Stromberg was also impressed by the reassuring calm from the reception nurse who soothed a few anxious patients dealing with changes in their schedules, and by Steve Jung, the charge nurse, who she said listened carefully and empathetically to a few patients who were apprehensive.
“He assured them that their concerns were real and that they weren’t being ridiculous,” she said. “The way he validated them clearly made them feel better. Then he also took time to stop and help when my infusion pump started beeping.”
Stromberg was so impressed by her experience she wrote a letter to UC Davis Health Patient Relations.
“The level of care, kindness and attention was really stellar, even when I already had high expectations from my previous visits,” she wrote. “I wanted to thank everyone for taking such good care of me and for showing up in these tough times.”
Talking about her experience a month later, Stromberg had another thought: It felt good to be there.
“Rather than being more stressful in such a strange time, it was actually less stressful because everybody there was going through the same thing and being cared for by people who empathized with us so strongly,” she said. “As odd as it sounds, in the middle of a pandemic, it was nice to be around such good people and do something normal.”